Previously, on Save the Pearls: We met Eden, an oppressed white “middle-aged” 17-year-old living in an underground dystopia where black people are in charge, because I guess their melanin protects them from solar radiation? Yeah, don’t think about it too much. When we left off, Eden had just been attacked by her supervisor, Ashina (or “that bitch”), and because she dared to defend herself, the legion of other scary black people are now all mad at her. And Chapter 1 is probably the least cringe-inducing that this book gets, so strap yourself in for all manner of discomfort!
The chapter opens as Eden backs away slowly from the scary mob of black people. She is terrified, but thankfully her dad (who is in the other room, if you recall), notices that his daughter is being ganged up on.
That’s right, Eden’s dad calls his daughter “daught”. Eden doesn’t like this, and takes a moment to complain about how her big-brain dad is Such Science:
Daught for daughter. To him, she was simply one of life’s sub-classifications—genus daughter. At least, he’d noticed her. But what could he do?
As you can see, Eden objects to being called “daught” on the grounds that it sounds “scientific” (which, no, it doesn’t). But in the last chapter during her flashback, Eden’s mom also called her “daughter”. That sounds way less affectionate than “daught,” which sounds like “Dot,” and I think that’s actually a cute nickname.
What I’m saying is that you can’t get a diss from a “Daught”. Eden, no one feels sorry for you.
Eden lowers her eyes in a “submissive gesture all Pearls used.” Because only white people have to defer to authority in this world? Sure, whatever, OK, fine.
Never engage a Coal. Don’t look a Coal directly in the eye unless requested.
It’s funny how in Black Supremacist Land, out white POV character still thinks about black people as savage animals. It’s almost like Victoria Foyt isn’t trying to write an anti-racism novel at all, but just really likes the idea of being oppressed.
Finally, Eden turns and runs away. After a few moments, though, she runs right into her sexy boss!
She turned to find herself in the clutches of the imperious Ronson Bramford, owner of REA.
I’ll give you a little heads up: this is her love interest. You can say it’s coincidence that this book was published about five months after 50 Shades of Grey, and it very well may be. But let’s all be thankful that it was 50 Shades that caught on and not this.
We get some description of Ronson Bramford, and Eden really seems to hate this dude despite obviously having a huge boner for him. He tells everyone to get back to work, but continues holding onto Eden. But instead of feeling relief, dealing with this guy is apparently even worse than being pursued by an angry mob:
She wasn’t sure which was worse: being murdered by a mob or dealing with the arrogant bastard.
Could it be that her hatred of this dude is only here to make their inevitable hook-up all the more sexy? I know I harped about this during HfM, but why do all these authors conflate deep loathing with secret sexual tension? I get that it can be sexy, but seriously, I feel like when it’s basically the ONLY form of sexual tension represented in media, there’s some cultural pathology there that really isn’t conducive to anyone’s well-being. Or maybe it’s just lazy writing. Probably the latter. It is, after all, harder to write an interesting, believable relationship than it is to write “I hate him so much so why is he so attractive?” over and over and call it true love.
So anyway, Eden thinks about he never looks directly at her, and how since his “mate rate” is 98%. Oh, and remember how I complained about describing black people’s skin by comparing them to food? It’s averted here, as Eden describes his skin as being “the color of storm clouds.” Which I think is supposed to mean his skin is pitch-black, but makes me picture him as being literally grey.
Bramford is 22 years old, but men have until 24 to “mate” (this is not explained; we’re supposed to take it for granted that of course men get to be older when they settle down). Eden wonders why he hasn’t “mated” yet, because, like, he’s so hot!
Bramford asks what happened, and
Ashina the bitch tells him that Eden attacked her. Bramford then asks Eden if that’s true, and Eden is puzzled about why he would even ask her. If you’ve deduced that Bramford is madly in love with Eden, then you are correct. But we’re not supposed to know this yet.
Ashina talks about how white people are the worst, and says that Eden’s fuck-ups have cost her a lot in the past. We never learn any more about these former mistakes, so I think we’re supposed to naturally assume that it’s always all Ashina’s fault.
But then Eden’s dad comes down the stairs, and Eden thinks that he looks stressed out. She also takes a moment to think about how he wears glasses (because he’s a scientist!) and how he refuses to get LASIK or something, and how it’s soooo embarassing. And then Bramford tells him that they don’t need him, so he goes away again, and Eden feels sad that her dad obeyed their boss.
Bramford then summons his bodyguard, Shen, who is Asian, or, in this weird racist-gemstone-system, an “Amber.” Eden is shocked at his presence:
Only true Coals were allowed to hold security positions. Of course, Bramford could use his clout to bypass such rules. Still, why not pick a Tiger’s Eye, or Latino?
TIL “Latino” is a race. Last time I said that I don’t think that Victoria Foyt understands anything about racism, and now I’m kind of getting the idea that her ideas of race are literally based on emoji color coding:
I also feel like Victoria Foyt has forgotten about Indian people altogether. As in, both from India and Native Americans.
Oh, fun fact: Shen has a dragon tattoo!
Bramford tells Shen to get someone named “Jamal” . Shen uses the life-band thing to call him, and we get a little bit more world building:
the white dot at his third eye crinkled as he frowned in concentration. What Eden wouldn’t give to wear a white dot on her forehead. It would mean she was mated, safe.
Third eye? This world is atheistic, as we learn later, so if you’re thinking that this means everyone is Hindu now, you’re mistaken. As noted earlier, it is never acknowledged that South Asian people exist. But I think maybe Foyt is trying to evoke India’s caste system? I’m probably giving her too much credit. I think the real reason is that bindis are foreign and exotic and nonwhite people are foreign and exotic. fuuuuuck this book.
Jamal, we learn, is Head of Security. We also learn that Eden really, really likes him:
Giddy pleasure welled up in Eden at the sight of him. My Dark Prince.
So, it seems like Jamal and Eden are in a secret relationship. She thinks about how different he is from Bramford, even if he is shorter, less powerful, and less rich, because he’s “colorblind”. I honestly don’t know if he’s literally colorblind, but I think it’s meant to mean that he’s not racist against white people.
Jamal stood before them with his legs braced apart, his broad shoulders square. The warrior tattoo that swirled on one side of his face added to the look of strength.
Black man = warrior! Black man = strong! I’m going to point out again how odd it is that even though black people are in power in this world, historical racial stereotypes seem unchanged.
Jamal starts to bring up the security footage on his life-band, and Eden hopes that she’ll be exonerated, but then Bramford is like, nah, I’ll look at it later. He asks Jamal why he wasn’t there (and while doing so is compared to looking like a snake preparing to strike, so yeah), and then Jamal says he was “attending to personal business”. Bramford shows no reaction.
And now we get some background on Bramford! Eden’s looked at his info, and she notes that it’s very vague.
[he] took over Bramford Industries at age eighteen when his father died from a terrorist Pearl attack.
(this is the last we hear about white people rebelling, FYI)
Even his genome was fake, a standard model she recognized. Such secrecy frightened her. To be mysterious was perhaps the ultimate power.
Eden then thinks some more about how arrogant and pretentious Bramford is (we don’t really get any examples; we’re supposed to just believe her). Then Bramford says to Ashina that he “won’t allow internal discord,” and even though Eden is constantly thinking about how awful he is, she thinks that he’s letting her off the hook.
He’s not, though. He turns to Eden, and tells her that since she started it, she must bear the consequences. She worries about getting fired, which would mean getting cut off from “basic resources” (i.e., cast out into the light). She asks Jamal if there could be a mistake, and it’s not explained what exactly she’s talking about? I think she’s asking him if something could have happened to the report that she was supposed to give Ashina, because Jamal says that it’s possible that while he was “busy,” someone could have altered the record. Wow, Jamal sucks at his job.
Ashina gets mad when he says this, and Eden worries that she’s catching on:
Did the nosey bitch suspect her hidden connection to Jamal? Coals often killed Pearls who seduced their kind.
Remember, all of this racism is justified because white people get skin cancer more easily. Seems legit. Again, if white people are so hated, and they’re living in a world where resources are so limited that anyone who doesn’t pop out a baby by age 18 or gets fired from their job is basically killed, why haven’t they progressed to anti-white eugenics/genocide? None of this makes sense!
Bramford dismisses Jamal’s speculation, though, saying that any hacker would have set off an alarm. Jamal replies:
“Unless it duped the system,” Jamal countered. “Maybe a mirroring device or new kind of robot spy dropped in.”
Eden quivered at the mention of the dreaded Federation of Free People, a militant organization of Coals that vowed to rid the planet of Pearls.
Jamal affirms that the FFP do in fact have the technology to be 1337 h4x0rs. He also says that whatever Eden’s father is working on may have given them the motive to break in.
Here are my notes from my initial read of this novel:
(Just so you know, when I called the FFP and “underground group,” I meant shadowy and secret, not literally underground). Now, I won’t say which parts of my speculation ended up being correct, but I will tell you now that it’s the most boring.
Bramford gets all suspicious that Jamal knows that Eden’s dad is close to a breakthrough, because it’s supposed to be Top Secret. Eden thinks about how she had “solved the puzzle”, which didn’t make sense on the first read-through, but now I think she meant that she was able to figure out her dad’s project.
But then, half her genome came from her brilliant father
You can see in my notes above that this announcement of Eden’s supposed intelligence amused me greatly.
Ashina then brings the issue of Eden’s dereliction of duty. Bramford “waves his hand” to shut her up, and tells Eden that she’s on probation, and not return to work until he says she can come back. She is surprised at this, saying that he’s usually not responsible for disciplinary actions. She feels despair, which doesn’t make sense considering that she was worried about being fired altogether; shouldn’t she be relieved? Oh well.
But she thinks of Jamal, and how he “put his job on the line” for her (which I guess he was risking being fired for suggesting a security breach?). She hopes that maybe he’ll “pick up her mate option.”
As the scene winds down, Jamal says one last thing to her:
He sidled up to her and whispered. “Don’t worry, Little Bunny. I’ll make it up to you. See you after work.”
She smiled at him, for once not caring if anyone noticed.
Yeah, Jamal’s nickname for her is “little bunny.”
And yeah, this is the girl who has just spent the entire book so far thinking about how she’s about an inch away from being thrown out of society for multiple reasons. Eden is dumb.
And that is the end of this chapter. Come back tomorrow for more shitty world-building, racism, and some abuse of Emily Dickinson for no reason.